Amsterdam – Netherlands, Europe
Amsterdam is the largestcity and the capital of the Netherlands. The currentposition of Amsterdam as capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is governedby the constitution of 24 August 1815 andits successors. Amsterdam has a population of 783,364 within city limits, anurban population of 1,209,419 and a metropolitan population of 2,158,592. The cityis in the province of NorthHolland in the west of the country. It comprises the northern part of the Randstad, oneof the larger conurbations in Europe, with a population ofapproximately 7 million.
Its name is derived from Amstelredamme,indicative of the city’s origin: a dam in the river Amstel. Settled asa small fishing village in the late 12th century, Amsterdam became one of themost important ports in the world during the DutchGolden Age, a result of its innovative developments in trade. During thattime, the city was the leading center for finance and diamonds. In the 19th and20th centuries, the city expanded,and many new neighbourhoods and suburbs were formed. The 17th-century canals of Amsterdam (in Dutch:’Grachtengordel’), located in the heart of Amsterdam, were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in July 2010.
The city is the financial and culturalcapital of the Netherlands. Many large Dutch institutions have theirheadquarters there, and 7 of the world’s top 500 companies, including Philips and ING, arebased in the city. In 2010, Amsterdam was ranked 13th globally on quality oflivingby Mercer, and previously ranked 3rd in innovation by 2thinknow in theInnovation Cities Index 2009.
The Amsterdam Stock Exchange, the oldest stockexchange in the world, is located in the city centre. Amsterdam’s main attractions,including its historic canals, the Rijksmuseum, the VanGogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum, Hermitage Amsterdam, AnneFrank House, Amsterdam Museum, its red-light district, and its many cannabis coffee shops draw more than3.66 million international visitors annually.
Amsterdam is part of the province of North-Hollandand is located in the west of the Netherlands next to the provinces of Utrecht and Flevoland.The river Amstelterminates in the city centre and connects to a large number of canals thateventually terminate in the IJ. Amsterdam is situated 2 metres above sea level. The surrounding land is flatas it is formed of large polders. To the southwest of the city lies a man-made forestcalled het Amsterdamse Bos. Amsterdam is connected to the North Seathrough the long North Sea Canal.
Amsterdam is intensely urbanized, as is theAmsterdam metropolitan area surroundingthe city. Comprising 219.4 square kilometres of land, the city properhas 4,457 inhabitants per km2 and 2,275 houses per km2.Parks and nature reserves make up 12% of Amsterdam’s landarea.
Amsterdamhas an oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification Cfb),strongly influenced by its proximity to the North Sea to the west, withprevailing westerly winds. Winters are mild. Amsterdam, as well as most of theNorth-Holland province, lies in USDA Hardinesszone 9, the northernmost such occurrence in continental Europe. Frostsmainly occur during spells of easterly or northeasterly winds from the inner Europeancontinent. Even then, because Amsterdam is surrounded on three sides by largebodies of water, as well as enjoying a significant heat-islandeffect, nights rarely fall below −5 °C (23 °F), while it could easilybe −12 °C (10 °F) in Hilversum, 25 kilometres southeast. Summers aremoderately warm but rarely hot. The average daily high in August is 21.8 °C(71.2 °F), and 30 °C (86 °F) or higher is only measured on average on3 days, placing Amsterdam in AHS Heat Zone 2. Days with measurable precipitation are common, on average186 days per year. Amsterdam’s average annual precipitation is 833 millimetres(32.8 in). A large part of this precipitation falls as light rain or briefshowers. Cloudy and damp days are common during the cooler months of Octoberthrough March.
Amsterdam fans out south from the Amsterdam Centraal railway station.The Damrak isthe mainstreet and leads into the street Rokin. The oldestarea of the town is known as de Wallen (the quays). It lies to the east of Damrakand contains the city’s famous red light district. To the south of de Wallen isthe old Jewish quarter of Waterlooplein. The 17th century canals of Amsterdam, known as the Grachtengordel,embraces the heart of the city where homes have interesting gables. Beyond theGrachtengordel are the former working class areas of Jordaan and dePijp. The Museumpleinwith the city’s major museums, the Vondelpark,a 19th century park named after the Dutch writer Joost van den Vondel, and the Plantage neighbourhood, withthe zoo, are alsolocated outside the Grachtengordel.
Several parts of the city and thesurrounding urban area are polders. This can be recognized by the suffix -meerwhich means lake, as in Aalsmeer, Bijlmermeer, Haarlemmermeer,and Watergraafsmeer.
Amsterdamis one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, receiving morethan 4.63 million international visitors annually. The number of visitorshas been growing steadily over the past decade. This can be attributed to anincreasing number of European visitors. Two thirds of the hotels are located inthe city’s centre. Hotels with 4 or 5 stars contribute 42% of the total bedsavailable and 41% of the overnight stays in Amsterdam. The room occupation ratewas 78% in 2006, up from 70% in 2005. The majority of tourists (74%) originatefrom Europe. The largest group of non-European visitors come from the UnitedStates, accounting for 14% of the total.Certain years have a theme in Amsterdam to attract extra tourists. For example,the year 2006 was designated “Rembrandt 400”, to celebrate the 400thbirthday of Rembrandtvan Rijn. Some hotels offer special arrangements or activities during theseyears. The average number of guests per year staying at the four campsitesaround the city range from 12,000 to 65,000.
In the city centre, driving a car isdiscouraged. Parking fees are expensive, and many streets are closed to cars orare one-way. The local government sponsors carsharingand carpoolinginitiatives such as Autodelen and Meerijden.nu.
Public transport in Amsterdam mainlyconsists of (night) bus and tram lines operated by Gemeentelijk Vervoerbedrijf. Regionalbuses, and some suburban buses, are operated by Connexxionand Arriva.Currently, there are 16 different tram lines, and four metrolines, with a fifth line, the North/Southline, under construction. Three free ferries carry pedestrians and cyclistsacross the IJto Amsterdam-Noord, and two fare-charging ferries runeast and west along the harbour. There are also water taxis, a water bus, a boatsharing operation, electric rental boats (Boaty) and canal cruises, thattransport people along Amsterdam’s waterways.